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The News Digest contains the latest information on the full range of sound issues and research. Here you'll find issues updates and recent news items, drawn from a wide range of sources, including both science and general interest press from around the world, as well as alerts from environmental organizations.

Follow links above for more detail on specific topics; issue areas will summarize key themes, while the Archives hold news items of interest. The Acoustic Ecology Institute has also prepared a number of more in-depth Special Reports on key and recurring topics of interest. At the bottom of this page you will find current Action Alerts and event notices.

PLEASE NOTE: AEI's news and science coverage is located on the site

This page and this section of the site contains news archives
from 2004 through mid-2009

The News Digest
Last updated June 6, 2009

Vilsack Calls "Time Out" on New Activity in Roadless Areas - The Obama administration has stepped into the tortured legacy of the Clinton Roadless Rule, which (after full public involvement and consideration) declared roadless areas in the National Forests off-limits to new logging projects. The Bush team did not overturn the rule, but neither did it support it, as two dueling Federal Court decisions came to opposite conclusions about its legality. The order has immediate impact in Alaska's Tongass National Forest, which Bush exempted from the Rule. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has issued a year-long order, which may be extended for another year, taking decisions about roadless area developments out of the Forest Service (which, in a legacy of the initial purpose of the National Forests, is under his department's jurisdiction), and requires that he personally approve any proposed projects in roadless areas. Agriculture Department officials cast the order as a procedural timeout and said they expected Vilsack to approve some projects that meet the administration's standards for responsible forest practices. While some Republicans in congress reacted strongly, timber industry representatives took a more optimistic approach. "It's a responsible action on [Vilsack's] part that says the buck stops here on any projects in the roadless areas," said Tom Partin, president of the American Forest Resource Council, an Oregon-based group. "It really doesn't present an edict." Source: LA Times, 5/29/09 [READ ARTICLE]

Report Details Six Strategies for Successful Enforcement of ORV Rules - An eternal stumbling block in curtailing illegal off-road vehicle (ORV) use in areas that are not designated for motorized recreation is the lack of effective enforcement of current rules and laws. ORV transgressions have created a somewhat unusual alliance of concern between environmental advocates and public lands managers, who have been stretched beyond the limit by increasing ORV use in many National Forests and BLM districts. Drawing on the insight and expertise of many land managers, the advocacy group Wildlands CPR has published a new edition of their Six Strategies for Success report, which directed toward land managers as well as local environmental advocates. The strategies largely apply to agency staff, and include such things as maintaining a physical presence at known trouble spots, creating effective collaborations with citizen groups, and encouraging ORV groups to take responsibility to self-police. Source: Wildlands CPR, 5/09 [DOWNLOAD] or [VIEW ONLINE]

Minke Whales Appear to Flee NATO Sonar Exercise - Two UK environmental and research organizations that were monitoring whale activity during a recent NATO naval exercise report that minke whales were seen fleeing along the surface while their hydrophones were picking up loud mid-frequency active sonar signals. Observers from the Hebrides Whale and Dolphin Trust saw “two minke whales within an hour displaying unusual and worrying behaviour. At the same time they heard military sonar on the hydrophone – sometimes so loud that they could not keep the headphones on. The whales were both moving in the same direction at high speed, regularly leaping clear of the water. This behaviour, known as ‘porpoising’, is more typical of dolphins and rarely seen in undisturbed whales.”

Nienke van Geel, HWDT’s Biodiversity Officer said “Seeing minke whales porpoising many times successively is very unusual. Both whales moved very fast, too fast for us to keep up with them to try to take identification pictures. We estimated they were traveling at least at 15 knots. Our research has already shown a decline in minke whale sightings in the last few years, so we’re worried about anything that might adversely affect the population.” The incident is reported on in three posts from the HWDT’s colleagues, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS). The first includes the initial report of the incident, the second details the situation more fully and stresses the need for the UK Navy to conduct fully environmental assessments as the US Navy has begun to do at home, and the third clarifies that the US Navy should be, according the the US Marine Mammal Protection Act, applying for permits for sonar activities in UK waters, though it currently only does so for training in US waters. Sources: WDCS Fieldwork Blog, 5/15-21/09 first post, second post, third post

WhalePower Turbine Blades Complete First Field Trials, Show Marked Power Efficiency Gains - The whale-inspired turbine blades announced last year have completed their first field trials in Canada. The tests were made on normal turbine blades onto which a series of curved bumps were added to the leading edges of the blades, mimicking the tubercles along humpback whale fins. The tests, run by the Wind Energy Institute of Canada, enhanced operational stability, durability, and quietness, seemed to shed ice extremely well, and increased Annualized Energy Production by 20%, though the tubercles were added to only 60% of the length of the blades. "An improvement of just 1 or 2% in AEP is significant," says Stephen Dewar, Director of R& D at WhalePower. "Here we have about 20% with low noise. We're thrilled by this result." Source: WhalePower press release, 1/22/09 [READ PRESS RELEASE]

US to Sell Pakistan 445 Sonobuoys - The United States and Pakistan are cooperating in a new initiative to supply the Pakistani Navy with 445 sonobuoys, including mid-frequency active sonar units used to detect quiet submarines. It is not clear what subs would be the target for this program (the "Taliban Navy" and "Taliban Airforce" are often tossed out by bemused observers as the only likely mutual threats), or how carefully they would be deployed in regards to marine mammals. Source: Domain B, 3/9/09 [READ ARTICLE]

Chinese Navy Harasses US Low-Frequency Active Sonar Ship Near Chinese Base - The USS Impeccable, one of two US Navy long-range Low Frequency Active Sonar (LFAS) surveillance ships deployed in the western Pacific, was repeatedly harassed by Chinese Navy and other Chinese ships during March. The Chinese attempted to snag the towed array cables with poles, and to obstruct the ship's passage by dropping wood in the water and buzzing it with its ships. The incidents took place 75 miles offshore from Hainan Island, site of a key Chinese submarine base; China claims sovereignty of its entire 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone, while the US recognizes only the 12-mile territorial water limit, and insists the Impeccable was therefore operating legally in international waters. While the Impeccable is well-documented as one of the US Navy's two LFAS ships designed specifically for monitoring quiet submarines, and deployed in areas where they can keep tabs on Chinese and North Korean navies, some press reports seemed to downplay or obfuscate this; for example the BBC report said that the Impeccable's sonar is used to "map the ocean floor." Sources: American Chronicle, 3/22/09 [READ ARTICLE] BBC, 3/10/09 [READ ARTICLE] SEE US NAVY VIDEOS OF THE INCIDENTS [YOUTUBE]

Western Soundscape Project Tops 1000 Recordings - The University of Oregon's free digital archive of recordings from wild habitats in the American West has grown to over a thousand items. “Our premise is that the sounds of the west are unique and that they deserve a closer listen,” says research librarian Jeff Rice. “As our lives become more urbanized, we are losing our connection to the natural world and its rich sounds. There are whole generations of kids growing up that have never heard coyotes, or even frogs, in the wild. This is our heritage and we want to help restore some of that connection.” By focusing on the sounds of the western U.S., the archive emphasizes the connection between sound and place—something that is not only culturally valuable, but also biologically crucial, say scientists. Scientists recognize that even the same species of animals can sound different based on their geography. Birds, especially, can sing in dialects unique to their areas“Frequent recordings in many areas help create a database that will give insight into how the ‘singing culture’ of birds changes over time and space,” says Dr. Franz Goller, a biologist at the University of Utah. “Efforts like the Western Soundscape Archive are therefore very important in documenting acoustic behavior.” Source: Innovations Report, 3/18/09 [READ ARTICLE]
Western Soundscape Project Website: [MAIN SITE] [VIDEO INTRODUCTION]

Oregon Wind Farm: Half Mile Setback Not Sufficient to Meet Noise Standard? - The Willow Creek Wind Farm, which recently began operating in Morrow County, Oregon appears to be generating noise levels far above the 36dB required by local ordinances. In November, after neighbors whose homes were about a half mile from the towers pointed out that noise models provided by the company indicated that the turbines would exceed the 36dB limit (local ordinance allows noise to 10dB above local ambient, which is 26dB), Invenergy, the wind development company, produced a new noise model that predicted the towers would be in compliance, while acknowledging that it may need to do noise monitoring to assure compliance. When turbines began operation in December 2008, neighbors took decibel readings at their homes; though they had expected to hear the turbines, they were surprised at how loud they were: readings regularly came in at 40-50dB, at times rising to 67dB, leading the county to notify Invenergy in early February that "At this time Morrow County must ask Invenergy, particularly the Willow Wind project, to provide on the ground evidence that the noise standard is being met." The company plans to do a noise study in April. A spokesman for the Oregon Department of Energy noted that officials "still don't know enough about the noise factor" because little research has been done. We know more about the effects on birds and bats." The nearby neighbors insisted they aren't against wind towers; they're all for green energy, they said, just not so close to their homes. "If they had just used a little foresight and moved these back a little farther...," Michael Eaton said wistfully, "but they didn't." Source: East Oregonian, 3/7/09 [READ ARTICLE] The Oregonian, 3/25/09 [READ ARTICLE]
[See AEI Special Report: Wind Turbine Noise Impacts]

South African LNG Terminal Threatens Relatively Pristine Bay - PetroSA's plan for a liquid natural gas mooring facility in a known whale-breeding site on the Western Cape coast has stirred up an environmental hornet's nest. Environmentalists warn that the facility, planned for the serene location of Vleesbaai, near Mossel Bay, will disrupt marine life. The bay is a favourite stop-off point for migrating whales and attracts many whale-watchers, and is considered one of the Western Cape's last pristine marine areas. Vleesbaai's residents are against the planned facility, announced in October last year. "PetroSA's facility is ill-conceived, short-sighted and environmentally damaging, "said Mareo Bekker, chair of the Rescue Vleesbaai Action Group. He said the plan involved the effective rezoning by stealth of Vleesbaai into an industrial area. PetroSA says that the new facility is needed because local offshore gas supplies are about to run out; opponents claim that the company could pipe gas from an existing offshore rig, rather than constructing a new and separate mooring facility. Coastal ecologist Allan Heydorn said he is gravely concerned about the planned facility. Noise and light pollution would affect the whales and dolphins that frequent the bay. Source: Mail & Guardian, 1/28/09 [READ ARTICLE]

Moray Firth Oil Development Plans Put on Hold Pending Cetacean Surveys - After announcing in 2007 that oil and gas development permits might be issued for Moray Firth, the huge bay in Scotland's northeast corner, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) had been expected to decide in March this year whether to give the go-ahead for the oil and gas industry to carry out seismic surveys. However, now it has put any activity on hold for 2009, saying that more research needs to be carried out into the potential impact on the dolphins. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) said it was a "mini-victory" for its campaign to protect the area, which has attracted support from almost 18,000 people. It hopes the research will show the need to keep the oil and gas industry out of the area permanently. However, the government said the research might show both exploration and the dolphins can exist together. The WDCS believes the noise from seismic surveys and drilling, as well as potential oil spills, present a threat. Sarah Dolman, head of policy for Scotland at WDCS, said the DECC's decision to carry out more research was a "huge step forward", but added that there was still a long way to go before the issue was resolved. Source: The Scotsman, 1/29/09 [READ ARTICLE]

Gray Whales Abandoning Crucial Feeding Ground at Sakhalin? - The World Wildlife Fund is reporting that the critically endangered western Gray whales have largely abandoned a formerly crucial feeding ground near the ever-expanding Sakhalin oil and gas development in far eastern Russia. Disruptions from tanker traffic, offshore construction, and seismic surveys is blamed for the whales' move from offshore Sakhalin (just north of Japan) to an area closer to western Kamchatka (a peninsula across the Bering Sea from Alaska), where plans for a new oil field are brewing. Source: Russian News and Information Agency, 2/19/09 [READ ARTICLE]

Herbal Cocktail Could Protect Against Noise-Induced Hearing Loss - There's new hope for clubbers and soldiers in research recently reported at the University of Florida. A combination of antioxidants and magnesium protected guinea pigs and mice from hearing loss when exposed to both several hours of loud noise, and a sudden loud noise. While the studies were designed to test for the supplements' ability to protect only from loud noise, the researchers found that the supplements prevented cell loss in an inner ear structure called the lateral wall, which is linked to age-related hearing loss, leading them to believe these micronutrients may also help protect the ear against age-related changes in hearing. Source: University of Florida press release, 2/17/09 [READ PRESS RELEASE]

BC Pipeline Plan Stirs Concerns About Increased Shipping in Key Whale Feeding Ground - Plans to build a pipeline to move the fruits of Alberta's oil fields and oil sands to the deepwater port of Kitimat, in order to ship it to Asia, are spurring widespread concerns among residents and researchers in northern British Columbia. In addition to fears of a tanker accident and rural resistance to the pipeline, University of BC biologist Rob Williams stresses the noise impact of increased tanker traffic. “Caamano Sound may be one of the last chances we have on this coastline to protect an acoustically quiet sanctuary for whales,” says Williams. "We don’t exactly know why this area is so rich, but there are some long, narrow channels that serve as bottlenecks for food, making it easier for whales to feed.” The researcher has been using acoustic monitors to gauge the level of underwater shipping noise, known to have an impact on the ability of toothed mammals, such as orcas and dolphins, to use echolocation for finding food. A detailed feature article in the Vancouver weekly The Georgia Strait provides an in-depth look at the plans and at the hurdles that must be crossed to bring it to fruition. Source:, 2/5/09 [READ ARTICLE]

NMFS OK's Navy Sonar Plans off Atlantic Coast - In the latest of a recent flurry of completion of long-needed Environmental Impact Statements governing Navy sonar training in US coastal training ranges, the NMFS gave it's official seal of approval to the Navy's Atlantic Fleet Active Sonar Training EIS. The AFAST ranges (covering nearly the entire eastern seaboard and into the Gulf of Mexico), along with very similar EISs recently approved for Southern California and Hawaii, account for the vast majority of current US sonar training activities. The rules will be in effect for five years, but the Navy will have to provide annual reports and seek a new letter of authorization for its training each year. While the Navy's EIS stated that it needed full rein to train anywhere, anytime in the AFAST ranges, and that any restrictions would not have a significant impact on the numbers of whales affected, NMFS chose to impose some modest restrictions on sonar activity in parts of the southeast Atlantic between November and April, when endangered right whales give birth (these clauses simply call for the Navy to"minimize" the use of dipping sonar and "reduce the time spent" doing active sonar training). "These new sonar rules were completed in the waning weeks of the Bush administration to prevent review by the Obama administration," said Joel Reynolds, director of the NRDC's marine mammal program. "The rules will illegally harm entire populations of whales and dolphins over millions of square miles of ocean and rich marine habitat, and they will do so for years to come." NRDC notes that the EIS predicts that, between the three sonar training areas noted above, 2 million marine mammals per year will hear sonar transmissions, causing widespread behavioral impacts. In the same week, the Navy released its Record of Decision (the formal adoption of the EIS Preferred Alternative) for both the AFAST and Southern California ranges. Sources: Virginian-Pilot, 1/24/09 [READ ARTICLE] Virginian-Pilot, 1/24/09 [READ ARTICLE] Jacksonville News, 1/24/09 [READ ARTICLE] AP, 1/23/09 [READ ARTICLE] NRDC Press Release, 1/23/09 [READ PRESS RELEASE] Navy News, 1/23/09 [READ ARTICLE] AFAST Federal Register Notice, 1/27/09 [READ ARTICLE] Navy News, 1/21/09 (SOCAL decision) [READ ARTICLE]

MMS Begins Planning for New Offshore Oil Leases, Seismic Surveys - The Minerals Management Service released preliminary plans for a new round of oil and gas leases in areas off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts that have been closed to drilling since the early 1980's. MMS released two documents, one of which outlines 21 lease sales that could take place during the next 5-year planning period, 2010-2015. The second document was a Notice of Intent to begin a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement to investigate the environmental effects of multiple exploration activities on the Outer Continental Shelf, primarily seismic surveys. MMS Director Randall Luthi said, "Today, we are presenting options to the next Administration. The final decisions regarding the next steps are theirs. We're basically giving the next Administration a two-year head start. This a multi-step, multi-year process with a full environmental review and several opportunities for input from the states, other government agencies and interested parties, and the general public." Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar, Obama's choice as interior secretary, has indicated he likely will want to scale back the Bush administration's offshore drilling agenda. "There are places in the Outer Continental Shelf that are appropriate for drilling. There may be other places that are off limits," Salazar said Thursday during his Senate confirmation hearing. "We need to have a thoughtful process as we go forward." The US House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources is scheduled to hold hearings on offshore drilling in early February. One key wildcard is the current lack of funding for MMS to complete the required EIS; the Notice of Intent notes that with funding, it could be completed by 2010, but without funding its future is uncertain; and, strangely, MMS even solicits investment from "outside sources" (presumably the oil and gas industry) to fund the research. Sources: AP, 1/16/09 [READ ARTICLE] Offshore Oil and Gas News, 1/16/09 [READ ARTICLE] MMS Press Release, 1/21/09 [READ PRESS RELEASE] Federal Register Notice, NOI, 1/20/09 [READ FR NOTICE] See Committee on Natural Resources Website (no schedule yet; keep checking): [WEBSITE]

NOAA Issues Authorizations for Hawaii Range Sonar Training - The Navy has received the necessary authorizations from NOAA's Fisheries Service to proceed with sonar training missions in the waters around Hawaii. This was the first of the Navy's eleven training ranges to complete its Environmental Impact Statement process. The Letter of Authorization comes along with a few additional requirements that go beyond those planned in the Navy's mitigation plan. Among these is the establishment of a humpback whale cautionary area; in this area off Maui, any sonar training must be approved by the Commander of the Pacific Fleet, and the Navy must report to NOAA the number of hours of sonar use and any observed effects on humpbacks. A Stranding Response Plan is also in place, requiring immediate shut down of sonar if a stranding is reported during a training exercise, and live animals are in the water. Otherwise, the mitigation measures approved are similar to those used by the Navy in recent years, including an outer safety zone (reduce sonar power) of 1000 yards and a shut-down zone of 200 yards. NOAA says that it does not expect any deaths to occur, but they acknowledge that at times sonar can cause strandings, and will allow up to ten deaths of each of eleven species, noting that should this occur, it will not have a significant impact on the populations as a whole. Taryn Kiekow, marine mammal staff attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has pushed for larger safety zones and putting some biologically rich areas off-limits to sonar, said, "They are recycling protections for sensitive marine mammal species and habitat near Hawaii that courts have repeatedly found inadequate." NOAA notes that "The Navy has been conducting training exercises, including the use of mid-frequency sonar, in the Hawaiian Islands for more than 40 years." In recent years, there has been increased scrutiny of sonar training, after a few strandings during naval exercises in several places around the world. In early 2007, as the Navy began the process of writing Environmental Impact Statements, it received a national security exemption to the Marine Mammal Protection Act to protect it from lawsuits while completing the EIS's; at the same time, the Navy formally implemented the safety measures it has used since that time (with, according to the Navy, no strandings occurring while using these measures). The exemption expires at the end of the month, making the new LOA's essential to continued training. It is unclear what will happen in the training ranges that have not completed their EIS yet; two other final EIS's have been released, with several drafts also complete, and more on the way this year. Sources: Honolulu Advertiser, 1/13/09 [READ ARTICLE] NOAA Press Release, 1/12/09 [READ PRESS RELEASE] ENS, 1/12/09 [READ ARTICLE] Federal Register Notice, containing final rules, 1/12/09 [READ NOTICE]
Related: OMI, Navy Ask Judge Ezra to Dismiss Suit - With the completion of the Hawaii Range Complex EIS and issuance of NOAA authorizations, both parties in a high-profile challenge to the Navy's safety measures asked Federal District Judge David Ezra to dismiss the suit. Ezra did so, also dissolving the injunction he had imposed, requiring the Navy to impose additional safety measures when whales were present. The suit, largely predicated on the Navy's lack of a full EIS on which to base its safety measures, had been filed by the Ocean Mammal Institute. Ezra's approach to creating a balance between Navy and environmental interests had differed from that taken by the California District Court, in that Ezra's increased power-down zones and surface-duct restrictions kicked in only when whales were observed nearby. Sources: Hawaii Reporter, 1/14/09 [READ ARTICLE] Honolulu Advertiser, 1/14/09 [READ ARTICLE]

Cornell's Lab of Ornithology Expands Far Beyond Birds - Cornell University's Laboratory of Ornithology has long been a center for the study of birds, their songs and behavior. In recent years, though, the lab has spread its wings far and wide, sponsoring groundbreaking studies of elephant communication and ocean acoustics. "We've adjusted our self-view," said professor of ornithology and library director Jack Bradbury. "We started as a collection of bird sounds. We're now a museum of animal behavior." Their highly respected Library of Natural Sounds has now expanded to include video, and thanks to an endowment, rests on a solid foundation for the future as the renamed Macauley Library, still at the classic address of Sapsucker Woods Road in Ithaca, NY. Audio curator Greg Budney said one comparable sounds collection is in the British Library, which contains the national sound archive, of which only a portion is wildlife sounds. "One thing we have that they don't is we're also an archive of animal behavior videos," Budney said. "We've polished another facet of this diamond." Much of their collection, both audio and video, is now accessible at their website. Sources: Ithaca Journal, 1/10/09 [READ ARTICLE] Macauley Library Websites: [MAIN WEBSITE] [AUDIO/VIDEO CATALOG]

Ear-Catching Sound Design is Highlight of Several Recent Movies - In the years since I became immersed in the worlds of acoustic ecology and soundscape artists, my newly opened ears have often been dazzled by the use of sound in movies. Gus van Sant's more adventurous movies have been special treats (especially on headphones while watching on a laptop), and several recent films have caught the ears of movie critics as well, with the sound design of Wall-E and Into the Wild both often featured in reviews.. An article in Variety listens in on the soundtracks of current releases Doubt, The Wrestler, and Benjamin Button, including interviews with the sound designers, the unsung heroes of the acoustic ecology of the movie theater. Source: Variety, 1/7/09 [READ ARTICLE]

Georgia Agency Biologist Says Navy Calms His Fears About Undersea Warfare Center Impact on Right Whales - The U. S. Navy's proposed sonar training range off the Georgia and Florida coasts won't impact the endangered North Atlantic right whale as much as first thought, a Georgia wildlife biologist said Tuesday. The federally protected northern right whale's only known calving ground is off the coasts of Georgia and Northeast Florida from Nov. 15 to April 15. They bear and care for their young as close as 500 yards from shore to a distance of about 30 miles offshore; the 500 square mile training range will begin 50 miles from shore. "Our initial concern is that the Navy avoid that area during calving season," said Clay George, a wildlife biologist specializing in the right whale and other marine life for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources in Brunswick. "We expected that that is not something the Navy would voluntarily abide by. But we were encouraged when they provided us with additional information on sonar training that was not in the draft environmental impact statement. They told us a very small percentage of their training would be in that area - only 1 percent," George said. "They are going into the channel and navigating - training they would have to do - and we thought that was reasonable. That allayed our concerns considerably." While the Navy is exempted from new ship speed limits in right whale habitat, George expressed hope that they would keep speeds down during training. Catherine Wannamaker, of the Southern Environmental Law Center staff attorney said that Navy ships from Kings Bay and Jacksonville would be passing through the critical calving habitat of the right whales to reach the training ground. "We must make sure that this project has as little environmental impact as possible, and the current proposal falls far short of that goal," she said. While the Navy will continue to get pressure to minimize or avoid training and ship transits during the calving season, it has so far rejected formal Alternatives in their Environmental Impact Statements that would mandate such restrictions, saying that they need full operational flexibility in order to train sailors an all conditions they may encounter when deployed around the world. This is shaping up to be the main point of contention as the EIS process is finalized in eleven different training ranges over the coming year. Source: The Tribune & Georgian, 1/7/09 [READ ARTICLE]
[See AEI Special Report: Active Sonars]

John Luther Adams Feature in The New Yorker - In a departure from our normal definition of "news" here, I want to point you to a fantastic profile of composer John Luther Adams in this week's New Yorker. The lengthy piece gives John plenty of space to talk about his uniquely rooted music, as well as travel with him into the Alaskan landscape his music so movingly evokes. It begins with the writer's experience in a museum installation of JLA's, which creates a real-time musical evocation of seasonal, diurnal, earthquake, and northern lights activity in Fairbanks. During a walk on Lake Louise, the author watches Adams: "The lake was covered with ice four feet thick, and, after spending the night at a local lodge, we went for a walk. The sun was burning faintly through the mist above. Periodically, a curtain of snow descended and the shores and islands of the lake disappeared from view. I noticed that Adams was listening closely to this seemingly featureless expanse, and kept pulling information from it: the fluttering of a flock of snow buntings, the low whistle of wind through a stand of gaunt spruce, the sinister whine of a pair of snowmobiles. He also noted the curiously musical noises that our feet were making. Tapping the crust of snow atop the ice, under which the wind had carved little tunnels, he compared the sounds to those of xylophones or marimbas." Source: The New Yorker, 5/12/08 [READ ARTICLE]

SongFinder Makes High-pitched Bird Calls Audible Again - Help is at hand for aging birders who have lost the ability to hear the higher-pitched bird calls they long enjoyed. A new device co-developed by renowned environmental sound recordist Lang Elliott transposes the now-inaudible bird calls and songs down into lower pitches, making them once again audible. The unit, dubbed the SongFinder, is designed to be worn in the field, and uses headphones and stereo imaging to allow birders to track birds in three dimensions, just as they are used to. Source: NatureSound website [WEBSITE]

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Action Alerts, Upcoming Events

Contacting Congress - Call (202) 224-3121 for Capitol Switchboard, and asked to be connected to your Representative's office. For faxes or e-mails, check out your Representative's website. Don't know how to find it? The Library of Congress runs a web page that'll get you there. [WEBPAGE]
Or use
, which provides email links, letter-writing services, and issues background. [WEBSITE]
Contacting the Congress
is a web resource that will tell you who your reps are and also provides contact info [WEBSITE]

The Acoustic Ecology Institute encourages broad-based public participation in planning and regulatory processes. Inclusion in the following list does not necessarily indicate AEI endorsement of the action proposed.

90 Degrees South - New York-based sound artist Andrea Polli, whose work often centers around natural systems, is in Antarctica for much of December and January. She is posting regularly, with short notes and many sound files: some field recordings, many interviews with scientists about their work, and about listening. The sound files take a little while to load, but it's worth the patience (let the page load while you read the posts or do something else); once loaded, you can click to listen on the page, or download the MP3s to listen at your leisure. [WEBSITE]

Listening to Birds - A two-year anthropological study based at the University of Aberdeen (Scotland) is exploring the relationships that people have with bird songs and calls. The project's blog is off to a dynamic start, with many interesting posts, and they are actively soliciting contributions from anyone, worldwide. [WEBSITE] [BLOG]

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